Steve Jobs Said Living Your Best Life Really Comes Down to 3 Words

Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs. Photo: Getty Images.

A simple lesson to keep us on track.

In his 56 years on the planet, Steve Jobs was both a teacher and a student of getting the most out of life. We got a great glimpse of his philosophy on the subject during his commencement speech to Stanford’s 2005 graduating class.

The speech is inspiring and chock full of applications for facing failures and setbacks. Jobs spoke of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, death, and dying. Knowing that our time on earth is limited, he told the students to think carefully about how to spend it.

Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

The bottom line can be boiled down to three important words: Follow. Your. Heart.

Your mortality is your most important tool.

Jobs forces us to consider the inevtability of our own passing with respect to living life to the fullest. Thinking about your death and the time you have left isn’t meant to be confining. On the contrary, it’s meant to empower you to use that time in the most meaningful way possible.

As Jobs explained to the Stanford grads:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Yep, no reason at all. Still, so many of us get caught up in living up to the expectations of other people while forsaking our own dreams and goals. When Jobs was just 17, he read a quote that would have an impact on him for the rest of his life: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”

For the rest of his life, he would begin each day by standing in front of the mirror and asking himself a question: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

This is a question we should all be asking ourselves to direct us toward our purpose and keep us on track. It’s that undertaking you can’t help but do every day. Even if you weren’t getting paid, you would probably do it anyway. When you discover what your purpose is in life, what your true heart’s desire is for you, it makes you come alive.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Jobs closed his commencement speech with some fitting words taken from the back cover of the final edition of the Whole Earth Catalog. The words, printed under the picturesque scene of a country road, were the publication’s farewell message as they signed off.

Those same words were Jobs’ wish for the graduating students, just as he’d always wished it for himself:

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

That’s simple yet profound advice every single one of us can follow, as did Jobs.